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Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill [HL] - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:51 pm on 3rd February 2020.

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Photo of Lord Moynihan Lord Moynihan Conservative 3:51 pm, 3rd February 2020

My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey. She highlights issues that I have had the opportunity to discuss with her—key issues of concern shared by all members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sport, Modern Slavery and Human Rights, on which I have the privilege to be her vice-chair.

The Commonwealth Games Federation—under the inspired leadership of Dame Louise Martin, who in my view numbers among the finest of the world’s leading sports administrators and from whom this House will hopefully one day benefit—has developed its Transformation 2022 agenda, as my noble friend mentioned. It is an ambitious programme with the values of humanity, equality and destiny at its heart. Having been ongoing for a number of years, this agenda will culminate in the hosting of the 2022 Games in Birmingham. We all hope this will be a “best in class” example of stringent human rights protections and responsibilities.

The Commonwealth Games Federation has already shown leadership with the Gold Coast 2018 Games being the first to offer equal medal opportunities for men and women, and is catalysing an entire movement around sport and human rights, redefining the Commonwealth brand. I hope that the Commonwealth will also use its influence to bring all participating countries into fully respecting the LGBTQ+ agenda.

So, what can we do? I hope that in Committee we can review the excellent social values charter mentioned by my noble friend the Minister, as well as the delivering social value legacy of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, and see whether we have in place the right legislative framework to promote the objectives of the Games, as raised by the noble Baroness. Sport is an enabler of rights, including the rights of women and of sportsmen and women with disabilities, which should be promoted in any legislation that refers to sport—indeed, in all legislation.

I hope that we will explore what further opportunities we can take to support Transformation 2022, to consider how human rights fit in, what is significant about Birmingham 2022 and whether there are ways in which we as parliamentarians can provide the legislative framework to advance this vitally important, ground-breaking work. I have nothing but respect for the noble Lord, Lord Foster, and the remarkable contribution he has made, not least in the world of the Paralympics; he has spoken very ably about the Birmingham Games and raised many important points. I think he would agree that the Commonwealth Games deserves recognition in the area we have just been talking about, because a lot of the rhetoric in this debate over the years has cited London 2012 as the best example for the Olympic movement. However, the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014, for example, went a step further and had a human rights policy, not just a sustainable sourcing code and grievance mechanism. Birmingham 2022 should be the new benchmark, not least for the Olympic Games in Paris.

I also wish the Commonwealth Games Federation and the organising committee every success with their aim to deliver one of the greatest events ever to be hosted in the West Midlands and a real catalyst for creating a lasting legacy, not just in bricks and mortar but in sport, for the whole of the United Kingdom. It is an opportunity to improve the health and well-being of local communities and deliver the greatest festival of sport this country has seen since the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London 2012. Above all, we need a sports legacy plan for the region, building on the excitement of sporting activity and offering a legacy which can provide so many benefits for the young people of this country—and not just them, however critical, important and centric that is to the whole event.

On 25 June last year, we considered the legislative framework under which the Commonwealth Games would take place. The reintroduction of this important legislation provides Parliament with the opportunity to review progress, learn from the work undertaken since then and establish whether further improvements can be made. It also gives us the opportunity to ask the Minister how close we are to the original budget and whether preparations for the Games are currently on time.

At this point, I will focus on what I consider to be some of the most critical and important issues that we debated at Second Reading last time around: access for disabled people and the sustainability plan. It is a great privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Foster, who I have mentioned already. He contributed so much on the Paralympic side of the Games, but not just that; his speech showed that his knowledge of all sports politics is extensive. Good progress was made for disabled people during the parliamentary stages of the Bill when we discussed it the first time around. However, we did not start from an ideal position, as the Minister opposed my intervention for a specific focus on disability and access. The responses from the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, in writing and from the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, to the comments made from the Front Bench at the time were what one might best describe as political apoplexy.

I welcome the fact that the Government made significant changes and rescinded their original position, coming forward with specific amendments—another area of good progress made. However, on 24 July 2019, the Minister confirmed that further proactive steps would be taken. In particular, I think the House had in mind steps along the lines of what the noble Lord, Lord Foster, outlined. The Games are about not just providing opportunities for those with disabilities but, critically, ensuring that anyone with a disability is not discriminated against in any way, whether in the facilities, access, their positioning in the stadia when they are watching the Games, or in areas where this does not necessarily come as high on the agenda as it should. Frankly, that means everything to do with the preparation of the Games, but particularly travel arrangements. I hope the Minister will today confirm the status of the accessibility strategy under the leadership of the accessibility manager, Emma Clueit, who was not in post when we last debated this, and when we might expect the first detailed annual report to be published. I hope she will report at the same time on progress made through the work of the admirable and important disability forum.

On a related subject, could the Minister confirm when the organising committee’s Games-wide sustainability plan can be considered in detail by your Lordships? This is vital and welcome work, with the Games’ sustainability commitment and the four Cs to which the Minister referred.